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An Adventure into the Blue Ice Caves in Iceland

Artistic motivation originates from many places. Nature inspires my art. Recently, my son showed me some images of the blue ice caves in Iceland. He wants us to travel there to find inspiration in the caves. Their raw beauty amazes me. I had to paint right then, how they made me feel.

As we go through the everyday rituals, it is easy to miss the richness of nature. Many of us live in urban areas, far removed from the untouched spaces of the world. Seeing these mysterious blue ice caves led me to reflect on nature's artistry.

The caves also call to mind my Ice Series. With the Ice Series, I aimed to capture the singular moment when water expanded and froze into ice. My goal with this painting was different. Instead, I wanted to create a free-flowing curvature to simulate the flow of water during the ice cave’s creation.

Another aspect I reflected on in the Ice Series was my artistic career. In Taoism, the water element is often associated with the journey of life. The beauty of the ice caves calls to me to explore life, but it also reminds me that by resting quietly, I can fill with knowledge in a silent transition.

The mysterious blue ice caves in Iceland

Iceland is often confused with Greenland. But while Iceland has a much greener mass than its frosty neighbor, there is still much snow and ice to be found. ​

When my son first showed me the pictures of the ice caves in Vatnajökull National Park, I was immediately smitten. The caves appear mysterious. Natural light illuminates through the blue ice walls and ceiling. It creates an enchanting scene.

Also known as the Crystal Caves, these mysterious blue ice caves in Iceland are naturally enchanting. It's incredible to think that beneath all the different shades and structures hides active volcanoes.

Aside from their breath-taking beauty, the realization of just how long these caves have existed is staggering. Imagine seeing air bubbles hundreds of years old in the glacial ice. The knowledge and mysteries they must hold are astonishing.

While it may appear as if Iceland's glacier caves standstill through the passage of time, they are always changing. Some caves, like the Waterfall Ice Cave reform every year.

It's no wonder I felt motivated to paint. I sensed the raw energy of the mysterious blue ice caves but also their silence. It inspired me to give the ice caverns a new life and meaning.

Layers of ice and spilled ink

I began this painting by pouring Chinese ink mixed with blue acrylic paint on to paper. As I watched the ink flow, my inner eye imagined the blue ice caves in Iceland. I looked inside my thoughts to grasp the spirit of the caverns and created an abstraction of what I saw.

While I wanted to capture the caves in their creation, I also aspired to recreate their vast depth. By blending different layers of ink and paint, I could invite the viewer to come on an adventure deep inside the cave.

Each brush stroke shaped and transform the layers of spilled ink. Just as my inner eye realized the caves energy (ch'i), my body transferred its rhythm through the brushes to the paper. Breath plays a vital role in how the brushes move.

A close-up examination of my blue ice painting reveals the depth the different layers created. After the deep blue, I poured an orange hue. The warm orange tone created contrast.

Blue Ice Cave(2018) Acrylic and Ink on Paper, Shulin Sun

As complimentary colors, blue and orange have a strong impact on each other. While the warmer tone helps to bring forward the lighter blue, it also gives the impression of sunlight shining through behind the ice and down into the glacier cavern.

A smoother texture of light blue kissed by sunlight lies closer to the adventurer. It doesn't feel as densely packed or aged as the deeper blue ice. It appears to resemble freshly laid snow that's drifted in through a crevice.

Iceland’s blue ice caves entice the explorer

Seasonal cycles transform the blue ice caves in Iceland. During summer, surface meltwater drips through moulins (well shafts) into the caverns. Both the melted snow and hydrothermal heat help to form Iceland's blue ice caves.​

Seen below, pale blue ice untouched by the sun curves behind the deeper blue in my painting. It mimics a tunnel forged by meltwater as it drips through the glacier. The mysterious blue ice cave has a new maze for the adventurer to discover.

Blue Ice Cave(2018) Acrylic and Ink on Paper, Shulin Sun

In Taoist philosophy, the water element is the closest to the way or path in life. It moves forward, sometimes going in different directions or it comes upon a momentary interruption. It also evolves depending on its temperature.

The blue ice caves in Iceland remind me of life's journey where water imitates life with its twists and turns. Sometimes the water meets obstacles, but it quietly persists. As well, it adapts to change, becoming solid when it is cold.

Lao Tzu in the writings of the Tao advises: "Higher good is like water; water benefits all beings, and also rests quietly where most people don’t want to be." So, while the beauty of the caves inspires us to be explorers, rather than rush off to visit the Crystal Caves in summer, we remain to endure the heat and work capably.

Like water though, we too move forward through life by embracing change. We should also continue to learn and gather knowledge while resting, ready to act when the moment is right.

In my blue ice painting, I applied my knowledge of color, texture, energy and free-flowing lines to create depth and movement. However, I also used this knowledge to invite you to enter the painting. Together we explored and learned about the beautiful blue ice caves in Iceland.

Shulin Sun

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